Positive feelings about reading are formed when families read together. Some of the times best remembered are those when a story is shared on a trip or a picture book was read in the warmth of the family unit.
Reading aloud is more common with younger children who have not begun to read independently. However, it should be for all ages. Reading aloud offers the following benefits to all readers:1. Reading aloud introduces language in new ways:
While listening to stories children learn new words in meaningful context. Also, literature provides more complex sentence structure than ordinary speech and affords the listener a chance to hear many variations in written language.
2. Reading aloud is a basis for other communication skills:
Because reading a book orally is a shared experience, it offers a perfect time for discussion and questions.
Hearing a story can awaken children to the delights of literature, which will be a base for later learning. Through hearing stories, children become familiar with plots, themes and writing strategies. This knowledge provides a pattern for writing their own stories, poems and essays.
3. Reading aloud extends the child's ideas, concepts and values:
Literature provides an opportunity to explore places, settings and experiences that cannot be had in any other way.
Often stories that are shared aloud are outside the abilities of a child-reader. Extending knowledge and understanding through stretching the experience is obvious.
Through literature children can develop a sense of attitudes, social and moral values, as well as a beginning philosophy of life.
4. Reading aloud serves as a springboard to creative activities:
Stories, poems and nonfiction often lead to other activities such as art projects, dramatizations, other reading and media tie-ins.
5. Reading aloud gives pleasure and enjoyment:
Because of the bond formed between reader and listener reading aloud is an enjoyable activity. To be able to laugh, cry or discuss a book is something that both reader and listener will find beneficial.
If a definite time is set apart each day, reading aloud can become one of the special times of the summer.
THINGS TO DO WHEN READING ALOUD:
Consult lists for suggestions. Librarians are more than willing to help with titles that will meet the needs and interest of the children.
Begin with short simple picture books and stories. Advance to more difficult as the summer goes on.
Read often. A set time every day will be something to look forward to.
Read books, stories and poems that tie to special events; for example, books on presidents would be meaningful during this election year. Celebrate a birthday with a special book. Explore something in the outdoors or use a cookbook to make a treat.
Picture books are good for all ages; not just the youngest listener. The older ones can be helped to see different things than the non-reader.
Let the children be a part of the choice. Sometimes that may be a repeat (over and over!) but there is much learning in repetition. Introduce new titles every week. These new ones will become the "favorites" as they become more familiar.
THINGS NOT TO DO WHEN READING ALOUD:
Don't finish a book if it appears to be boring and the attention of the child is not being held. You could just find another book (let the child choose one, too) or just summarize the plot and then go to a new one.
Don't rush through a story or picture book just to get through. If you don't have enough time to complete it with adequate pacing, choose another book or just tell a story on that day. A short one.
Don't ignore some questions during the reading. A child's curiosity is a vital thing and should be nurtured at this time. However, know the difference between questioning about the story and questions that suggest the child needs a "talking time" as well as a story time. There is a difference.
Don't use books as a threat. Never say "I won't read you a story because you did not do as I asked." Children will soon learn that books are being used as a bribe or reward and that gives the wrong impression of the world of literature.
Don't forget to read on your own, sometimes." You read your book and I'll read mine . . . " is a pleasant change of pace. And the child sees an adult as a model reader. That's an important image!
* Marilou Sorensen is an associate professor of education at the University of Utah specializing in children's literature.